Over the years, many questions have arisen about Freemasons. Some of the answers have been quite fanciful, others outright wrong. Below is a collection of questions, some more popular, organized into four broad topics. Many of the answers are based upon the jurisdiction in the Province of Alberta, Canada. Others have been interpreted or summarized by the author. Author & Webmaster WBro. Ken McComb
WHO / WHAT ARE FREEMASONS?
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry (or Masonry) is the oldest fraternity in the world. Much is written on the history of Freemasonry, but it is stated that "Masonry is a progressive science" and for each individual, there is much that can be studied and learnt. There is recorded history that dates back to 1717, when Masonry created a formal organization in England and the first Grand Lodge was formed. A Grand Lodge is the administrative body in charge of several Masonic Lodges in a geographical area. In Canada, there is a Grand Lodge in each province. There are lodges in most towns and cities. There are about 1,300 lodges in Canada with over 80,000 members. Other records show that Masonic Lodges existed prior to 1717.
Who is the head of the Masons?
No one. Each Grand Lodge has its own jurisdiction and is the supreme authority within that jurisdiction. Obviously, many Grand Lodges have regular communication with each other, but official policy in one has no effect over another.
Are there any Masonic functions that I can attend as a non-Mason?
Yes, many Lodges sponsor public functions throughout the year, such as dinners or charity functions, designed to allow non-Masons who are interested in Masonry the chance to talk with Masons and ask questions. Spouses are often invited to attend these functions as well.
Are there any dues, fees, etc. associated with being a Mason?
Yes. Like all organizations, Lodges must be able to pay their expenses. Typically, there is an initiation fee. This is a one-time fee for the three degrees of Masonry, as well as regular annual dues. These fees and dues vary among the Lodges.
What is a "Masonic Funeral"?
Any member who was in good standing at the time of his death is entitled to a Masonic funeral if he or his family requests it. Such a request should be made to the Master of his Lodge who will make the necessary arrangements with the family.. A special service is authorized by the Grand Lodge of Alberta and the Lodge will do as much or as little as the nearest relative wishes it to do.
What are some ways Masons serve their fellow man?
In Alberta Freemasonry supports a wide variety of charitable causes. The largest is the Higher Education Bursary Fund, which is the largest non-government bursary fund in Alberta. In addition each individual Lodge will have its own individual charitable causes such as food banks, widow’s funds, highway cleanups, sponsoring children's sports teams and other local charitable causes such as clothing for street kids. In some jurisdictions Freemasonry supports homes for members and their spouses.
PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS & MYTHS
Are Masons a bunch of old men and is Masonry dying out?
The population of Masons is aging. There was a huge increase in membership in almost all fraternal orders after World War II, including Masonry. This peaked about the late 50s and then during the social turbulence and generational strains of the 60s and 70s, new membership fell off, with the result that by the 1980s, total membership was in a sharp decline. However, today more young men are joining Freemasonry. In fact, in many lodges, there are a great number of 50-and-up members and a number of 30-and-under members. The gulf in between represents the generation of Baby Boomers who did not join. Of course, we are speaking in broad generalities and there is no way to know the demographics of your local Lodge without asking one of its members. In Alberta, we are seeing more and more young men joining Lodges throughout the Province.
Are Masons racist or even elitist?
There are some Masons who are perceived to be prejudiced, and this is unfortunate, saddening, and the majority of us feel that this is very un-Masonic. Masonry explicitly states the equality of men, regardless of race, creed, or color and there are Masons of all ethnic backgrounds and there are Masonic Lodges throughout the World. Racism is definitely not representative of Masonry as a whole. "Elitism" may be harder to define. Membership into Freemasonry is more selective because an applicant for admission must be a man of good character, of good report and who believes in God. Masonry is not only open to the upper classes of society, not the gentry and definitely not just the wealthy. There are Masons of all economic backgrounds and from every demographic. Considering all of this, it would be difficult for anyone to think that Masons are elitists.
Is Masonry just a place where businessmen make deals?
No. In fact, most Masons believe that to trade with a Brother Mason only because he is a Mason is un-Masonic and anyone who attempts to join a Lodge solely for business reasons would probably not be given a petition. Masons are friends however, and as a result many Masons do conduct business with their Brothers, for in Freemasonry, they are dealing with people that are of good character and can be trusted. Isn’t that what we all look for when we do business? If an individual is looking for a Networking source, perhaps he might be better off to join anyone of the other organizations or perhaps a business group.
Is Masonry a secret society?
No. Secret societies are generally defined as organizations which are unknown to the public and whose existence is denied. Masonic buildings are clearly marked, many Lodges have their own web sites, members proudly wear rings or bumper stickers on their vehicles that identify themselves as Masons, and Masons often participate in community charity work. Masonry is not a secret society, but rather a society with a few secrets. These are mainly modes of recognition - the signals, grips, signs, and phrases by which Masons recognize each other. Any individual can find out almost anything about Freemasonry from local libraries or the internet. What an individual cannot learn, is what Freemasonry means for each individual Brother, for to him the true secrets of Freemasonry are within his own breast and how can one individual describe how Masonry has affected his life, his conduct toward mankind and his internal beliefs. These are the true secrets of Freemasonry.
Is Masonry a religion?
No Masonry is not a religion. Masons must believe in a Supreme Being and Lodge meetings are opened and closed with a prayer to the Grand Geometrician of the Universe. There may even be several different books of faith upon the same altar in the middle of the Lodge Room. But Freemasonry has no particular doctrine or theology which attempts to describe the nature of God. Rather it teaches that no man should ever begin any important undertaking without first seeking the blessing of Almighty God in our own particular faith. It is important to note that no atheist can be made a Mason. It is also noteworthy that Religious or Political discussion is forbidden within the Lodge unless it is for educational instruction.
Are the Masonic rituals demeaning or embarrassing to the candidate?
Nothing could be further from the truth. The rituals (degrees) are designed to reinforce virtues that the Craft finds desirable, such as Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, together with Faith, Hope, Charity, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice. All noble attributes that men strive for in their daily lives. The rituals are actually quite beautiful and filled with ancient language and much symbolism. At no point, however, is the candidate asked to do anything that would embarrass or demean him, nor anything that would violate his obligations to his faith, his country, or the law.
HOW DO I BECOME A MASON?
What are the requirements for becoming a Mason?
In Alberta, Canada, candidates must be male, 21 years of age, able to profess a belief in God, and of good character. He must have lived in Alberta for a minimum of one year. Other jurisdictions from other parts of the Canada or other countries may have different requirements. To learn more about becoming a member check our webpage'Becoming A Mason'.
Is there any restriction of any specific ethnic group to become a Mason?
No. Any man who meets the requirements is eligible to become a Mason regardless of race, colour or creed.
Can homosexuals be Masons?
Yes. Any man who meets the requirements is eligible to become a Mason.
I have a physical disability. Can I be a Mason?
The answer is almost certainly yes, provided you can attend Lodge and meet requirements to become a Mason. Paraplegics have been made Masons, as have the blind, the deaf, and others with a variety of physical handicaps. Minor modifications may need to be done to the rituals (e.g., employing sign language, modifying points where the candidate stands if the candidate is in a wheelchair, etc.) but most Lodges are willing to accommodate candidates.
Do I have to be invited?
Don't wait to be invited -- you could be waiting for some time. Though Masons in Alberta are permitted to make initial contact with a potential candidate they are forbidden from actively pressuring non-Masons to join the fraternity. This is to insure that candidates come of their own free will.
OK, I'm interested—who should I contact?
If you know a Mason, ask him about membership. He will be glad to tell you all about the Craft and the local lodge, and give you a petition if you wish to join. If you do not know a Mason, visit any one of the Masonic Lodge Halls throughout the towns and cities. They would be very happy to show you around, answer any questions you might have and even put you in touch with members of Lodge. Or if you do not know if one of your friends or family is a Mason and you are interested check out our webpage 'Becoming a Mason'.
OK, I'm interested—what is the process to become a Mason?
The process in Alberta is as follows:
The applicant fills out a petition. The petition asks for two sponsors, though if you meet and talk with the officers, they will find sponsors or act as sponsors themselves if you do not know anyone in the lodge. The petition also asks for two character references, but again, Brethren from the Lodge will assist.
The petition is read out in Lodge during the next regular business meeting. A committee is formed to investigate the candidate. The candidate’s information is published in the Lodge Notice and sent to all members of the Lodge to give them notice of the application for initiation into Freemasonry and inform them of the date the ballot will be conducted.
The investigating committee meets with the candidate to answer questions, ascertain that he meets the criteria for membership, and find out a little more about him. This is not a "grilling session", but rather a friendly and casual chat to make certain that the candidate has been properly informed about Masonry and to ensure that he was not improperly solicited.
The investigating committee reports back to the lodge during the next business meeting and the candidate is voted on by all the Brethren present. If accepted, someone from the lodge (often the Secretary) contacts the candidate and informs him that he has been accepted and a date is scheduled for the 1st or ‘Entered Apprentice’ degree.
What is the time commitment?
It can vary from Lodge to Lodge and will depend on you as an individual. Most Lodges will meet once per month and the candidate must be in attendance for each of the degrees. There may also be some additional time set aside for mentoring. The candidate must be prepared to make a commitment. There is an old adage that states “You will get out of it, what you put into it”.
Where did Masons come from?
A fascinating question and, alas, impossible to answer within the confines of this FAQ. There are a number of theories, a lot of debate, and a lot of history books and papers concerning the history of Freemasonry. The ‘Operative Masons’ of the Middle Ages were the builders of mighty cathedrals throughout the British Isles and continental Europe, many of which still stand. These skilled craftsmen wrote in enduring stone impressive stories of achievement, frequently chiseled with symbolic markings. With these architectural structures of these master builders there was a companion moral code. These grew up together. Out of this background modern Freemasonry was born. There are documents that either hint at or factually record Masonry. One such article was written by Henry C. Clausen, a noted Masonic author. Here is an excerpt from his article: "Our Masonic antiquity is demonstrated by a so-called Regius Manuscript written around the year 1390, when King Richard II reigned in England, a century before Columbus. It was part of the King's Library that George II presented to the British Museum in 1757. Rediscovered by James O. Halliwell, a non-Mason, and rebound in its present form in 1838, it consists of 794 lines of rhymed English verse and claims there was an introduction of Masonry into England during the reign of Athelstan, who ascended the throne in A.D. 925. It sets forth regulations for the Society, fifteen articles and fifteen points and rules of behavior at church, teaching duties to God and Church and Country, and inculcating brotherhood. While the real roots of Masonry are lost in faraway mists, these items show that our recorded history goes back well over 600 years. Further proof is furnished through English statutes as, for example, one of 1350 (25 Edward III, Cap. III), which regulated wages of a "Master...Mason at 4 pence per day." The Fabric Role of the 12th century Exeter Cathedral referred to "Freemasons.". Minutes of Masonic Lodge meetings have been recorded and published from meetings held in the early 1700’s in Scotland, England and France. Although "Lodges" had existed for centuries, four of the "old" Lodges met in London on St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24, 1717, and formed the first Grand Lodge of England, thereafter known as the Premier Grand Lodge of the world. No longer ’Operative Masons’ as of old, these ‘Non-Operative Masons’ carried on the traditions and used the tools of the craft as emblems to symbolize principles of conduct in a continued effort to build a better world. As nations spread out in search of the New World, so to Freemasonry came. As the United States and Canada were settled, so to Freemasonry settled into a brand new World and followed the settlers on their westward trek across both of our great nations. It is important to note that the same year, in 1905, that Alberta became a Province in Canada, so to Lodges of Alberta formed the Grand Lodge of Alberta.
What's the difference between AF&AM and F&AM?
F&AM means "Free & Accepted Masons" and AF&AM means "Ancient Free & Accepted Masons". In practical terms, there is no difference, since the jurisdictions that are termed "Ancient" F&AM are no different than those that are simply F&AM. The distinction is a historical one, owing to differences in Grand Lodge names.
Why do some Lodges meet on a certain day of the week "following the full moon"?
The reason was simple practicality. Masonic Lodges meet at night, since their membership typically works during the day. Before street lights were available in the 19th century, men walked to Lodge in the dark of night and it was common to schedule Lodge meetings shortly after a full moon to provide maximum illumination as they walked to and from Lodge as well for the Lodge meeting itself. This is no longer an issue, however there are some Lodges, whose history stretches back into the 19th century or earlier, still schedule their meetings by the moon's period and these are often referred to as "Moon Lodges."
Did Masons suffer at the hands of the Nazis or Communism?
Yes. The exact numbers are unknown but Lt. Col. David Boyd wrote that 85,000 German Masons were killed by the Nazis, though other research has found that this number may be off by as much as a third. This figure does not include any of the nations the Nazis occupied. In Russia, during the rule of Communism, Masons were also forced to go underground and become secretive. Both viewed Masonry, which exalts truth, toleration, brotherly love, and free thought, to be dangerous and a threat to their regime and control over the masses. It is also ironic that in his last days in his bunker in Berlin, Hitler had a painting of Frederick the Great in his chambers. Frederick the Great was a Mason. Today, after the fall of Communism, Freemasonry is once again flourishing in those countries that were under the Communist Rule. Cuba is one of the great exceptions and today, though still under Communist Rule, has one of the largest growth of members and Lodges throughout the world.
What are some other Masonic Concordant Bodies associated with Freemasonry?
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite:This is an appendant body of Masonry, meaning that it is not part of the Craft (or Blue) Lodge per se, but rather provides further enlightenment into the mysteries of Masonry and requires that a member must be a Master Mason in good standing. The Scottish Rite of Canada confers the 4th through 32nd degrees. The degrees of Scottish Rite are conferred in dramatic form with a specific number that must conferred in their entirety and the rest may be communicated. The Scottish Rite awards a special honorary degree, the 33rd, to those it feels has made an outstanding contribution to Masonry, the community as a whole, and to mankind. There is no way to "achieve" this degree or "take" it, in the sense that one takes the 4th through 32nd degrees in the Scottish Rite. It is a singular honor, rarely bestowed, and greatly admired.
Acacia: A college fraternity for Master Masons, the sons of Masons, and young men recommended by two Masons one of whom is an Acacian himself. The national governing board is composed exclusively of 32nd and 33rd degree Masons.
Order of Amaranth: Open to Masons and their wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters. At least one Master Mason must be present at every initiation. It confers only one degree.
Daughters of Mokanna: An auxiliary organization of the Grotto comprised of the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of the Master Masons in the Grotto.
Daughters of the Nile: An auxiliary organization for the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of members of the Shrine.
DeMolay: For young men between the ages of 13 and 21. DeMolay Chapters and members are sponsored by Masons and Masonic Lodges, and some Masons also serve as Advisors on the Chapter's Advisory Council.
Desoms: An organization for deaf Masons.
Eastern Star: Membership includes Master Masons in good standing and ladies properly related to a Master Mason in good standing. The latter category includes wives; widows; sisters; daughters; mothers; granddaughters; step-mothers; step daughters; step-sisters; and half-sisters. Master Masons must be in attendance at all meetings.
Grotto: A fun organization open to Master Masons. It imitates the Shrine to a large degree, but requires only that a member be a Master Mason. Officially known as The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm (MOVPER)
High Twelve International: An organization of Master Masons that usually meet for lunch, enjoy fellowship, and support Masonic causes, with special emphasis on youth and patriotic endeavors.
Job's Daughters: Enrolls girls between the ages of 11 and 20 that have Masonic relationship. They must profess a belief in God.
L.O.S. of N.A.: The Ladies' Oriental Shrine of North America. Another auxiliary for the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of Shrine members.
National Sojourners, Inc.: Open to Master Masons who are U.S. citizens and who have served or are serving as a commissioned or warrant officer in the United States military or in any armed service of a nation allied with the US in time of war.
Philalethes: A group for Masons interested in Masonic philosophy and history.
Rainbow Girls: Rainbow is for young girls between the age of 13 and 20 and are sponsored by members of a Masonic Lodge or the Eastern Star. It confers two degrees, the Initiatory and the Grand Cross of Color.
Royal Arch (York Rite): This is an appendant body of Masonry and confers degrees beyond the Craft (or Blue) Lodge's three degrees. It consists of several additional degrees including Mark Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason; the Cryptic Degrees of the Royal Master, Select Master, and Super Excellent Master; and the Chivalric Orders of the Order of the Red Cross, Order of the Knights of Malta and the Order of Knights Templar.
Royal Order of Scotland: An organization for Christian Masons who have been 32nd degree Masons or Knights Templar for five or more years.
Shriners of North America. Members of the Shriners must be a Mason in good standing. The Shrine is most noted for its emphasis on it’s philanthropy, Shriners’ Hospitals for Children as well as its jolly outlook on life. Some have actually called it "the playground of Masonry." This is expressed as "Pleasure without intemperance, hospitality without rudeness, and jollity without coarseness." The Royal Order of Jesters is a group drawn from Shrine membership, by invitation only.
Tall Cedars of Lebanon: A fun organization for Master Masons similar to the Grotto. It confers the two degrees of the Royal Court and the Sidonian.
White Shrine of Jerusalem: For Master Masons and their wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters. Members must profess a belief in the defense of the Christian religion.
Can women become a Freemason?
The Grand Lodge of Alberta admits men only. There are women’s Lodges and co-ed Lodges in several countries, but they are not recognized by the Grand Lodge of Alberta.